By Kristin Espinasse


un balayage (ba-lay-ahzh) noun, masculine
1.  sweeping
2.  highlighting (hair)

se faire faire un balayage = to have highlights (put in one's hair)

Nos cauchemars, c'est notre âme qui balaye devant sa porte
Our nightmares are our souls sweeping outside the front door.

—Jacques Deval
A Day in a French Life...

Dirty blond. The French have a nicer term for this shade of hair color: "Cendré" (ash) or perhaps "châtain clair" (light chestnut). No matter how pretty it sounds en français, the bottom line is dirty blond, and it was happening to me again less than 8 weeks after my last appointment. Rendez-vous chez le coiffeur* for "wheat" colored highlights...

"No cut, just a balayage today," I said.

Once again la coiffeuse* began the tedious job of selecting  fine sections of hair which she laid carefully atop square pre-cut sheets of aluminum foil before using a paintbrush dipped into a thick ammonium hydroxide solution to coat the sections.

While the other hairdressers and their clients chatted away in French, we remained comfortably silent. Until...

"You've got cheveux blancs!"* my coiffeuse gasped.
"Oh!" I said, feigning shock.

The lady in the next chair, who was having her white hair tinted a bold bordeaux, winced and flipped the pages of Paris Match.

"The good news is, one day your roots will show less," la coiffeuse said.
"Quel soulagement,"* I replied.

Soon aluminum foil shot out of my head much like the crown on La Statue de la Liberté. This meant my locks were in the processing stage, and I could now relax into the May issue of Elle Decor. I was enjoying an article on the Puerto Rican glass artist Kiko Lopez when la coiffeuse summoned:

"Au shampooing," she said, and not a minute too soon. I'd spent the past half hour watching most of the villagers pass by the beauty shop window – some stopping to gawk – on their way to the grocery store (located one door over).

La coiffeuse moussed, puffed and spritzed: three verbs I never use on my hair, until all I could think of was how I'd flatten, tuck and dull up the end result.

Fifty-five Euros later I was on my way out of the salon, but first I stopped to look into le miroir.* As usual, from the hairline back, I looked just like la coiffeuse.

*References: un coiffeur (m), une coiffeuse (f) = hairdresser; un cheveu blanc (m) = white (grey) hair; un soulagement (m) = relief; le miroir (m) = mirror

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French Word-A-Day began in 1999 when Kristin Espinasse decided to share a piece of Provence from her office in the various cafés along the French Riviera. While trying to buy time at a euro ten per coffee, the writer came up with a plan to distribute her "café letters" from France.  What began as an earnest attempt at freelance writing eventually worked itself into a more suitable self-made métier as resident "French Word Artisan."  For more, visit:



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